Vote on cigarette tax for Phila. schools postponed

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives' vote on a cigarette tax that would provide funding for Philadelphia schools has gone up in smoke.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives' vote on a cigarette tax that would provide funding for Philadelphia schools has gone up in smoke.

"It is irresponsible. Of course it's irresponsible when you don't do your job," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Mayor Nutter called out state legislators in Harrisburg on Thursday, after a vote to authorize a cigarette sales tax that would supply funding for Philadelphia schools, was stalled.

The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives decided to cancel Monday's vote.

The bill would authorize a $2-per-pack tax to generate more than $45 million in the first fiscal year.

The money would greatly help the district which is facing an $81 million budget shortfall.

"We shouldn't be in this position in the first place. They said they were coming back, they said they would take care of this measure," said Mayor Nutter.

Without the money, school district leaders say layoff notices are set to go out to 1,300 employees on August 15th.

"I am annoyed, disappointed, and frustrated. Frustrated because we are at a point two weeks before we have to make operational decisions to educate children. We are trying to educate children," said Superintendent Dr. William Hite.

Republican house leaders say legislators failed to reach a consensus on the issue so they postponed the vote.

They aren't scheduled to reconvene until September 15.

However schools are scheduled to open September 8th, which Mayor Nutter says won't happen without the needed funding.

"That then results that schools will not open on time. Parents should take it very seriously and then they should be really upset. If your child isn't in school you may have find alternative arrangements, you may have to stay home, you may not be able to go to work," said Mayor Nutter.

Lawmakers said, in the meantime, they are urging Governor Tom Corbett to advance the district the funds it needs to open on time.

However Dr. Hite says an advance won't solve the problem.

"That just provides money to us that's coming later in the year - earlier in the year. It doesn't do anything to resolve the $81 million budget deficit," said Dr. Hite.
Related Topics:
education philly news cigarettes education philadelphia school district school school funding Center City Philadelphia
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